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An Engineering Bridge Program: Improving The Success Rate Of Underprepared Students In Engineering

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

FPD10 -- Pre-Engineering and Bridge Programs

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.206.1 - 12.206.12



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Paper Authors


Michele Grimm Wayne State University

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Michele J. Grimm has served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University since 2003. Previously, she was Associate Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Grimm earned her PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania and her BS in Biomedical Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from The Johns Hopkins University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Engineering Bridge Program: Improving the Success Rate of Under-Prepared Students in Engineering


In 2003, the College of Engineering at Wayne State recognized that a large proportion of its students entered the engineering program with placement into beginning or intermediate algebra. This is, in part, a result of the University’s mission to be an institution of opportunity – providing access to all academically qualified students. Only a small group of these incoming students remained in the College of Engineering after 4 years. As a result, an Engineering Bridge Program was developed with the dual objective of: 1) providing students with the appropriate foundation in math and science to succeed in engineering; and 2) retaining students at the University, even if they opted to transfer out of the College.

The academic-year program was implemented in the Fall of 2004 and included both foundational skills in academics and “survival skills” for university and engineering study. The first cohort has now completed up to two years at Wayne State. The retention rate (within the University) and performance of freshmen within this group has been compared to a similar cohort that entered the College of Engineering in the Fall of 1999 and also placed into these lower level courses. The two-year retention rate for the Engineering Bridge students increased substantially compared to the 1999 cohort, from 53% to 62%.

After two years, the effect of this program on retention is promising. The Fall 2006 program has been enhanced and is anticipated to further increase continued enrollment. Assessment of the program will be ongoing, focusing on retention and academic performance.


As the economy changes and more emphasis is placed on jobs in technology-related industries, it falls to the higher education system to prepare students for careers in these fields. Many colleges of engineering, especially those with an urban mission, have recognized that a poor preparation in math and science reduces their students’ chance for success in an undergraduate engineering program. However, for many students it is lack of opportunity – rather than lack of ability – that is the reason behind low math placement and substandard ACT or SAT scores.

Ideally, improving the preparation of students should be a joint project between universities and K-12 educators. However, this partnership can be complicated by the large number and diversity of the school districts from which a university attracts students. Therefore, the development of programs to meet the needs of all students interested in pursuing engineering, irrespective of the preparation they were able to obtain in high school, is imperative if colleges are to meet the educational needs of students and the educational goals of the community.

Grimm, M. (2007, June), An Engineering Bridge Program: Improving The Success Rate Of Underprepared Students In Engineering Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2317

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